Taking Flight

March 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Posted in School, Travel | Leave a comment
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There were indications earlier in the week that this thing might happen, this event. The anticipation built, was dashed, and lay dormant for days, the promise of the act always remaining within reach.dsc04710

But now here you are. You are climbing the hill, slowly, steadily, but climbing nonetheless, riding shotgun in an uncertain vehicle to an unlikely destination where you are still unsure about what exactly awaits you. The anticipation is building, the butterflies are coming, and your mind is racing with both the excitement of the thing to come and the danger of the act itself. The wait is interminable, your breathing is tight in your chest and you are hesitant, confused, unsure.

dsc04716But then you crest the hill, you look below and see all that there is to see before you, and you know instantly, immediately, that you must do this thing. You must take this leap, you must soar in these skies, you must breathe this rarefied air. It is all so close, so immediate. Just a short run, five steps at most, and you would be off, you would be flying.

Pause. Wait. dsc04713Precautions need be taken, harnesses, straps, protection. Language barriers must be overcome. Process must be discussed, consequences explained. Uncertainty, reality, once more injected into the day, threaten to overpower your mind, halt your actions, slow your speed.

It fails. You are there now, upon the precipice, staring at your fate, accepting, ready. And then you are running. You are running and the edge is approaching and the wind is behind you and gravity is taking over, it is now, this thing is happening, your legs are pumping and the ground is…the ground is gone, there is nothing beneath you and then suddenly –

Flurg!cimg6852

You are flying.

You are soaring and diving, racing through air and wind, breathless yet calm, certain, focused at the same time. Falling faster now, pulling up, cutting left and right, and then slow. The pace has lessened,  a moment to breathe.

Circling. Hovering.

Looking down, seeing it all, this place, this time. Knowing this was right, this risk was worth this reward, this moment, and then falling again. Faster now, over houses and friends, comfortable with the thing now, certain in its aim and course, confident in its direction and stability and so now bold, decisive with it. And then slow, again.

Circling and hovering.

Circling and hovering.

And the absence is more anxious than the action, the time between movements too long and the tightness in the chest returning. You see the ground below, the end approaching up to you, the momentum of time determined to end it before you were ready, before you were done with this, and your mind revolts, your senses abscond.

You just want to be in the air forever.

You will find a way to be in the air forever.

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Sports & Entertainment (but not in that order)

March 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Posted in School, Travel | Leave a comment
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In the Pictures

After a day spent in the clutches of heavy mining and petrochemical companies, our next day of business visits turned to somewhat lighter fare: the local market-leading purveyor of entertainment, Globo.

A modern day Brazilian equivalent to the great American media empires of img_destaque_home_vendas_offyore, Globo’s reach extends to the populace through TV, newspapers, magazines, cable, and internet. Unbelievably, the average Brazilian consumes over five hours of television a day (the only country with higher TV consumption than the US), and thus the majority of Globo’s efforts are focused here.

Their PR representative, overflowing with energy from what I believe to have been at least seven cups of Brazilian high-test, explained that Globo’s dominance was so complete, so absolute, that advertisers need not bother with viewer segmentation data before buying ad time on their network, because you have all the demographics watching all the time.

When you have a staggering 56% market share amongst all TV networks, you can say things like that with a straight face. It really is a sight to behold.

She went on to explain how the Telenovela’s were produced, really more of an entertainment factory than entertainment art, with a staff of writers, actors, and actresses kept on salary throughout the year and mixed and matched in different programs at the studio’s discretion.

The writer’s bungalows were on site, mere feet from the sets, all hearkening back to the 1950’s Hollywood studio system that brought us the mega-musicals and westerns of old. TV and movies being churned out as product rather than portrayal, waiting patiently for the Brazilian Spielberg or Scorcese to arrive and smash the entire system to bits.

We were toured throughout the sets, all well-made static images of contemporary domestic bliss. Being Americans, we, of course, instead took this opportunity to use the various props to depict acts of aggression and violence.

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Everyday Low Prices, part two

Next up was the now required, after the incredible experience of China’s equivalent, visit to Wal-Mart. A note on that: once you’ve seen the absurdity of foreign Wal-Mart, China particularly, you will, I’ve found, be overwhelmed with the desire to visit Wal-Mart whenever you visit a new country or state, just to see if they can top that.

dsc04684Brazilian Wal-Mart was, well, it was pretty much just like American Wal-Mart but with different brands. Large and sprawling, clean and calm, it felt a bit like coming home. Home to buying in bulk, paying less than things are worth, and the homogenization of brands and products. Ahhhhh. Delicous.

Full disclosure, one of the Wal-Mart grocery clerks was wearing roller skates. I admit to never having seen that in America. Leave it to Brazilians to find a way to blend athleticism and fitness into the act of stocking grocery shelves.

Gooooooooooaaaaaallllll!

We capped the night off with a visit to a local soccer game in a very, very large soccer stadium full of very, very rowdy Brazilians. By my estimation, one particular section of the crowd sang one song for fifty minutes straight.

dsc04697Soccer isn’t usually my game of choice, but it was a fun night nonetheless. I took the opportunity to explain to my fellow travelers that if they just made a few slight changes to this game, it’d be a lot more enjoyable. Start by dividing the field into ten yard increments, elongate the ball a little, put all the players in full pads and helmets, and allow them to crash into each other at high velocity and, you know what, I think they might have something here.

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